Karmic Balancing Here

Things aren’t going the best for me in the world of being steadily employed, but I teamed up with Elizabeth Lovick to offer some wonderful things to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) for Karmic Balancing gifts she can give to people who sponsor her team for the annual Bike Rally (Montreal to Quebec) to raise money for Toronto People with AIDS foundation.   Liz is donating two of her books, and I went through my yarn stash to find some wonderfulness, to wit:

KB 1A print copy of Exploring Shawl Shapes (A4, 98 pages, full color, due for publication in June 2015), plus 2 hanks of Zitron’s Trekking Hand Art (fingering/sock weight, 75% superwash wool / 25% nylon, 459 yds / 420 m per 100g hank) in color 551 Sansibar.

I am the graphic designer for this book (cover and inner pages), and I can tell you that I have learned a lot from working on this project.  In fact, I will soon have an honest-to-goodness grown-up shawl pattern to publish!

KB 2

A print copy of Centenary Stitches (A4, 160 pages, full color), plus 6 hanks of Cascade Quatro (worsted weight, 100% Peruvian wool, 220 yds / 200 m per 100g hank) in color 5024.

If you don’t know, this is a book of patterns for which I personally translated a dozen vintage patterns, knit two of the patterns, and designed everything (cover and inner pages).

KB 3

A DVD (NTSC format) of the film Tell Them of Us (67 minutes, plus extras — you’ll love the credits of the knitters and crocheters because it’s a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG list!) plus 7 hanks of Fibranatura’s Shepherd’s Own (worsted weight, 100% wool, 252 yds / 230 m per 100g hank), natural/undyed color (kind of taupe-ish).

I’m also the graphic designer for this film.  I was really proud of this design and the Photoshop work involved in conveying the image.

Click on the Yarn Harlot link above to learn how you can support Stephanie’s team.  In the meantime, I’m still destashing, so I might come up with some more truly wonderful items from my stash to donate to this worthy cause!

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Northern Pines Lace Scarf

This pattern is available now on Ravelry.   It is a reasonably simple lace pattern consisting of only 8 rows with the wrong-side rows worked in purl stitch.  I worked this with 5 balls of Jojoland Rhythm Superwash; finished size is about 9″ wide x 84″ long.  It can be made shorter quite easily; the pattern gives instructions for using only 4 balls of yarn (about 440 yards) for a scarf that will be only about 72″ long.

Try, try again . . .

Center Star smallThis little star has been kicking my ass.  There are 16 pieces, each with a finished size of 2″ x 2″.  When stitched together (at last!) it is 6.5″ square before being inserted into the quilt top.

Part of this construction is fairly easy.  It is comprised of 12 half-square triangles and 4 squares.  Even with something as small as 2″ squares, half-square triangles are fairly easy, but a little bit of slip even by 1/16″ can throw off the alignment over all.

I’ve used this technique (half-square triangles) in larger dimensions with good results.  Especially if you use a small-scale print, it’s an effective tool for creating the illusion of more complicated piecing.

But on this little star I’ve ripped back and readjusted three times in several places.  It’s still not perfect — I think that is an accomplishment only for gods (and people more patient than I am) — but it is very, very close.  It is good enough that I will use it as the center block of the bridal quilt I am working on.  It is the hardest part of the whole quilt top, and now it is done.

I can move on. 🙂

And another thing . . .

Ampersands

The ampersand started as the humble “et,” the Latin word for “and.”  It seems slightly silly to me that a person would rather write just 2 letters rather than 3 to make the conjunction of ideas, but the “e” and the “t” flow so easily from the pen that they become one letter.  In the above graphic, which shows the ampersand in 30 different type styles, we see its evolution from the elision of two letters to something almost musical, like a reversed treble clef.

This is one of the reasons I love typography.  When I’m developing a logo or title for a company, I consider everything, including the ampersand.  Type defines the character of the product or business, inviting us to feel something about it (e.g., safe and professional, casual and happy, excited and edgy).  Clean lines, a bit of a flourish, perhaps a serif — typography is a type of graphical expression that affects us whether or not we’re aware of it.

Planning

This is how I’m working the layout of blocks for the wedding quilt. I use Adobe Illustrator. There are 9 fabrics, so I chose colors that are closest to the fabrics, then I labeled each and work out the blocks. After that it was a matter of laying out the color sequence (in this case a gradient).

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. I’ve also worked out how many strip-blocks there will be (see the nine groups of four at the bottom) and I know how many blocks I’ll get from each of these.

What’s not included in this (yet) are some 16-square blocks I’ll make from the leftovers that will spice up the inner circle. Addition of those blocks will affect how the remaining blocks are used to create the keyboard border. And then I’ll work out how to use what’s left after all of that for either pillow shams or throw pillows.

In the past I have used Excel spreadsheets (nice grid format) as well for planning colors and working out designs. It’s a more accessible option for people who don’t have Illustrator or who don’t know how to use it if they have it.

Everything that can go wrong

I have made every mistake possible on the quilted pillow shams.  I have cut fabric incorrectly (to the tune of needing to get more fabric), I have miscalculated (and have lost time because the miscalculations were for the purpose of correcting the aforementioned incorrect cuts), I have made rookie mistakes in the sewing (we won’t even go there), and yet somehow I have come up with two pillow shams that are exactly the same size.

Fortunately, I learned from the mistakes and can apply those lessons to the next round of trying out the design.  It will take longer, but that’s what happens in the design process.

Which brings me to an important point:  Handmade is neither fast nor easy.  Yes, there are patterns with only a few simple pieces, but that doesn’t mean everyone ends up with a masterpiece.  Patterns marked “fast” or “easy” or anything of the sort are going to be faster and easier for the people who are well practiced at the craft.  Whether it’s sewing or knitting or any other thing, beginners will need to take extra time for reading the instructions thoroughly and for fixing the inevitable errors.  I’ve just put six hours of work into something that is presentable but not ready to be the prototype for a finished pattern, and I’ve got a lot of hours of sewing logged.

And that brings me to another important point:  Pay the designer for the pattern.  It takes time and energy (and mistakes and reworking), to work out a design and then to write out the steps with diagrams (and then to rewrite and redraw), and none of that counts the cost of the materials.  If you can afford to purchase the yarn, the fabric, and/or everything else you need to work the design — even if you’re shopping for the lowest cost materials you can find — then you can afford to pay for the pattern.